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Man's conviction reversed after 20 years in LA jail

March 16, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A man was freed from Los Angeles County Jail on Wednesday after spending nearly 20 years behind bars for a murder he insists he didn't commit.

A Superior Court judge overturned Francisco Carrillo Jr.'s murder conviction Tuesday after witnesses recanted their identification of him as the gunman in a drive-by shooting in Lynwood in 1992 that killed 41-year-old Donald Sarpy.

"It's a beautiful day in L.A.," said Carrillo surrounded by his family outside the jail. "The sun is piercing through the trees. I've always had faith and confidence that justice would prevail and here's proof of it, man."

Carrillo, 37, who was serving two consecutive life sentences, says he was at home with his father the night of the shooting.

"This is a classic example of witness misidentification," said Carrillo's attorney, Linda Starr. "He's an innocent man. He went in as a 16 and came out at 37. He grew up in prison."

While in jail, Carrillo got his GED, learned Braille and became an accomplished artist. In fact, he sold some of his artwork to fellow inmates and then sent the money to his son to buy clothes.

Carrillo was excited to see the sun, but he looked forward to seeing his 20-year-old son.

"When this all occurred, he was still in his mother's womb," Carrillo said. "My son is a brilliant young man. When I said dad would come home he was confident that would happen someday."

The District Attorney's Office has 60 days to decide whether to retry the case.